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Mayan Voices for Human Rights Displaced Catholics in Highland Chiapas by Christine Kovic

Mayan Voices for Human Rights Displaced Catholics in Highland Chiapas

Part of the Louann Atkins Temple Women & Culture Series Series


Mayan Voices for Human Rights Displaced Catholics in Highland Chiapas by Christine Kovic

In the last decades of the twentieth century, thousands of Mayas were expelled, often violently, from their homes in San Juan Chamula and other highland communities in Chiapas, Mexico, by fellow Mayas allied with the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). State and federal authorities generally turned a blind eye to these human rights abuses, downplaying them as local conflicts over religious conversion and defense of cultural traditions. The expelled have organized themselves to fight not only for religious rights, but also for political and economic justice based on a broad understanding of human rights. This pioneering ethnography tells the intertwined stories of the new communities formed by the Mayan exiles and their ongoing efforts to define and defend their human rights. Focusing on a community of Mayan Catholics, the book describes the process by which the progressive Diocese of San Cristobal and Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia became powerful allies for indigenous people in the promotion and defense of human rights. Drawing on the words and insights of displaced Mayas she interviewed throughout the 1990s, Christine Kovic reveals how the exiles have created new communities and lifeways based on a shared sense of faith (even between Catholics and Protestants) and their own concept of human rights and dignity. She also uncovers the underlying political and economic factors that drove the expulsions and shows how the Mayas who were expelled for not being traditional enough are in fact basing their new communities on traditional values of duty and reciprocity.


In sum, this carefully constructed study merits the highest praise for its contribution not only to the history of Mayan Catholicism, but especially for its on-scene documentation of human rights abuses. * Religious Studies Review *

About the Author

CHRISTINE KOVIC is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Houston-Clear Lake.

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Book Info

Publication date

1st June 2005


Christine Kovic

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University of Texas Press


248 pages


Human rights



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